View Full Version : Israel fury at UK attempt to arrest Tzipi Livni

David Guyatt
12-15-2009, 05:15 PM

Israel fury at UK's Livni warrant

Tzipi Livni was foreign minister during Israel's Gaza offensive

Israel has reacted angrily to the issuing by a British court of an arrest warrant for the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni.

The warrant, granted by a London court on Saturday, was revoked on Monday when it was found Ms Livni was not visiting the UK.

Ms Livni was foreign minister during Israel's Gaza assault last winter.

It is the first time a UK court has issued a warrant for the arrest of a former Israeli minister.

Israel's foreign ministry summoned the UK's ambassador to Israel to deliver a rebuke over the warrant.

We completely reject this absurdity taking place in Britain
Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the situation was "an absurdity".

"We will not accept a situation in which [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, [Defence Minister] Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni will be summoned to the defendants' chair," Mr Netanyahu said in a statement.

"We will not agree to have Israel Defence Force soldiers, who defended the citizens of Israel bravely and ethically against a cruel and criminal enemy, be recognised as war criminals. We completely reject this absurdity taking place in Britain," he said.

Pro-Palestinian campaigners have tried several times to have Israeli officials arrested under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

'Cynical act'

This allows domestic courts in countries around the world to try war crimes suspects, even if the crime took place outside the country and the suspect is not a citizen.

Israel denies claims by human rights groups and the UN investigator Richard Goldstone that its forces committed war crimes during the operation, which it said was aimed at ending Palestinian rocket fire at its southern towns.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has also been accused of committing war crimes during the conflict.

Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday: "Israel rejects the cynical act taken in a British court," against Ms Livni, now the head of the opposition Kadima party, "at the initiative of extreme elements".

It called on the British government to "act against the exploitation of the British legal system against Israel".

Addressing a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Ms Livni did not refer specifically to the arrest attempt.

But she said: "Israel must do what is right for Israel, regardless of judgements, statements and arrest warrants. It's the leadership's duty, and I would repeat each and every decision," Israeli media reported.

'Strategic partner'

Israel says it fully complies with international law, which it says it interprets in line with other Western countries such as the US and UK.

Oct 2009: Former military chief Moshe Yaalon cancelled a UK visit because of fears of arrest for alleged war crimes
Oct 2009: Filed attempt to raise warrant against Defence Minister Ehud Barak. Court ruled he had diplomatic immunity
Sept 2005: Arrest warrant issued for a former head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip Gen Doron Almog. He received warning before disembarking from an aircraft at Heathrow Airport, and flew back to Israel
On Monday Ms Livni's office denied the reports that a warrant had been issued and that she had cancelled plans to visit the UK because of fears of arrest.

It said a planned trip had been cancelled two weeks earlier because of scheduling problems.

The British foreign office said it was "urgently looking into the implications of the case".

"The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel," it said in a statement. "To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government."

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people were killed during Israel's Cast Lead operation between 27 December 2008 and 16 January 2009, more than half of them civilians.

Israel puts the number of deaths at 1,166 - fewer than 300 of them civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

The BBC's Tim Franks says that, privately, senior Israeli figures are warning of what they see as an increasing anti-Israeli bent in the British establishment.

In turn, our correspondent adds, there is clearly concern among British officials that should further arrest warrants be issued, relations with Israel could be damaged.

Helen Reyes
12-15-2009, 08:00 PM
"The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel," it said in a statement. "To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government."

That's exactly what they've done, they've invited her to hold talks aimed at peace at the Old Bailey :)

David Guyatt
12-15-2009, 10:23 PM
"The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East, and to be a strategic partner of Israel," it said in a statement. "To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government."

That's exactly what they've done, they've invited her to hold talks aimed at peace at the Old Bailey :)

It's a wonderful old building with a particularly nice entrance on its rera side -- usually only accessed by prison vans.:bootyshake:

It is very, very unBritish to have a Judge grant a warrant for the arrest of a statesman (or woman) of a friendly power. I can only imagine that the Judge wasn't aware of the political dimension.

What a truly wonderful cock-up...

Jan Klimkowski
12-15-2009, 10:35 PM
The British govt is now trying to change the law to prevent war crimes warrants likes this being issued in future:

UK to review war crimes warrants after Tzipi Livni arrest row

Israel condemns London court's move against former foreign minister over Gaza

Britain is reviewing procedures for issuing arrest warrants in war crimes cases after a diplomatic row with Israel over allegations against its former foreign minister.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, saidtonight that the government was "looking urgently" at ways the legal system might be changed following action against Tzipi Livni, Israel's opposition leader, over her role in the Gaza war.

The dispute erupted after Westminster magistrates' court in London issued an unprecedented arrest warrant for Livni on Sunday a move denounced by Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, as an "absurdity."

Miliband said Israeli leaders "must be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the British government."

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Britain, said after talks with Miliband: "The British government must take a firm stand to prevent British courts becoming a playground for anti-Israel extremists.

"The current situation is absurd and unacceptable in equal measure. Israelis cannot continually be held hostage by fringe groups of anti-Israel extremists, preventing politicians, businessmen and officers from visiting the UK."

The warrant for Livni's arrest was withdrawn amid embarrassment in the Foreign Office when it was discovered that she was not in the UK. But the fact that it was issued at the request of lawyers acting for Palestinian victims of the Gaza war did nothing to quell Israeli anger. The Israeli foreign ministry condemned what it called it a "cynical" move.

Livni had been due to attend a conference in London, but her office said she had cancelled two weeks ago. Palestinian sources claimed to have seen her at the event and alerted the lawyers.

Palestinians and an Israeli human rights organisation say about 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the Gaza offensive. Israel counted 1,166 Palestinians dead and said most were combatants. Israel says it acted in self-defence against Hamas rockets from Gaza. Thirteen Israelis died.

Miliband said in his statement: "The procedure by which arrest warrants can be sought and issued without any prior knowledge or advice by a prosecutor is an unusual feature of the system in England and Wales. The government is looking urgently at ways in which the UK system might be changed in order to avoid this sort of situation arising again."

Earlier, Britain's ambassador to Israel, Tom Phillips, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem, and told Israeli officials would not visit the UK until the matter was resolved. Britain's ability to play a role in the Middle East peace process had been damaged, Israel said.

Livni said today: "I have no problem with the world wanting to judge Israel. A problem arises the moment [Israeli Defence Forces] soldiers are compared to terrorists."

In September, pro-Palestinian lawyers tried to invoke "universal jurisdiction" to arrest Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister. His status as a cabinet minister gave the diplomatic immunity which Livni, a former minister, did not have.

In 2005, a retired general, Doron Almog, returned to Israel without leaving his plane at Heathrow after a tip-off that police planned to arrest him in connection with the bombing of a building in Gaza in which 14 people were killed.